I’m a boater and I’m an attorney who handles boat accident cases in Illinois.
It seems to me that most of the time when I read about boat accidents, the subject of alcohol comes up. This is no surprise. I can tell you firsthand that boating and alcohol go together like bacon and eggs. However, this article does not have to do with alcohol. It has to do with another major reason for boating accidents – boater inexperience. Inexperienced boaters are often negligent in the operation of their boats and this inexperience often leads to boating accidents, injuries and sometimes death.
Inexperienced Boaters Cause Chicago Boat Accidents
As a boater, it might be safe to say that many, if not most, people who own boats, especially big boats, are inexperienced boaters. This applies to many people who have owned a boat (or boats) for years and years. Let me explain.
The scenery that boating offers in Illinois, whether it’s boating on Lake Michigan or one of the inland lakes, is beautiful. The water sports and just plain lounging that the world of boating offers is wonderful. It seems like everyone wants a boat. Some of us are fortunate (or silly) enough to buy one. It’s easy. Show up where there is a boat for sale, give the seller of the boat some money and presto, you are officially a boat captain, no licensing or training necessary.
In my observation, most people buy who buy big boats (35 feet and up) don’t drive them too much. As stated before, I’m a boat owner. I’ve been at my current harbor for years now and I can tell you – most of the big boats never leave their slips. We refer to these boat owners as harbor rats. Their boats are simply their cottages on the water. Some of these people have been “boaters” for many years and yet still have a minimum amount of hours at the helm, i.e., they are inexperienced.
Obviously inexperience creates danger to the boater himself, his passengers and others on the water when he finally summons the courage to take his boat out of his slip. I’ve seen guys get behind the wheel of a boat they’ve owned for years and almost immediately crash his boat into another boat in the harbor.
Inexperienced Boaters Are Often Inattentive Boaters
Once out on the water, an inexperienced boater is more likely to cause a boat accident by being inattentive. An experienced safe captain focuses completely on his surroundings, always looking for other boats, people, and fixed or moving objects in the water. An experienced captain also keeps his eyes on the boat’s instrumentation to make sure that the boat is functioning properly. An inexperienced boater may not even know how to use his boat’s instrumentation.
Inexperienced Boaters Don’t Always Know Boating Rules
An experienced boater knows the many rules associated with boating. An inexperienced boater probably does not. “Why learn the rules of boating for those one or two pleasure cruises per year?” they think. An experienced boater knows that 8 out of 10 people who drown weren’t wearing life jackets. Most victims of deadly boat accidents drown. An inexperienced boater may be too embarrassed to admit that he is inexperienced and therefore may not insist that his passengers wear life vests.